Has Bashar al-Assad Already Won?
Gaziantep, Turkey – When Donald Trump sits down with Vladimir Poutine in Hamburg on Friday, he will take an unusual position for a great dedication, begging, begging Russia to solve the biggest problem in the Middle East.
The war in Syria, its seventh year, has generated dangerous tensions in the region and beyond. The NATO alliance was divided, the largest refugee crisis in the world has been created and could still lead to a regional war.
However, many international players are involved – each with its own program, many of them with enough chips on the table to veto the other – which Putin alone can not solve.
Obviously there is a growing acceptance of Russia’s position that, at least for now, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will remain in place so that everyone (hopefully) focuses on the fight against the so-called Islamic state.
The newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron made explicit, although France has previously taken the road to Assad’s removal request.
And Trump’s administration hopes the actors read between the lines: “Of course, it’s our policy,” a senior White House spokesman told Spencer Ackerman of the Daily Beast Thursday.
“I do not see how we can follow what we did and not come out with the conclusion [la]”.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has publicly issued a new proposal by the United States to “produce stability” in Syria as it left Wednesday en route to the G-20, where Trump and Putin are expected to meet. He called for no-fly zones in Syria and cease fire observers on the field, which means they include Americans and Russians.
Tillerson also called for “coordinated support” from humanitarian aid, which has so far been blocked by the Assad regime. And he called for assurances that the territory the United States could help liberate extremists from the Islamic state would not fall “illegally” into the hands of a faction in Syria.
Tillerson did not say which factions, but he could have spoken of the blows in the field during the current battle for Raqqa, the capital of “caliph” of ISIS.
While the United States carried out air strikes in support of the Kurdish ground units that ISIS escaped, Assad regime forces and Iranian-led Shiite militias rose to Raqqa, with the apparent aim to enter In the territory when it is released.
They also moved in Deir al-Zour, the oil-rich region under the control of ISIS, where the US-led coalition has carried out major air strikes against ISIS targets.
But Tillerson did not address the central issue of Syria’s future: the fate of Bashar al-Assad, who has been at war with his own people instead of satisfying the demands for reform of his dictatorship during the national uprising in 2011. Over 400,000 People died in the fighting, six million have fled the country and 4 to 5 million are displaced in the interior.
Even during a meeting with UN Secretary-General António Guterres Tillerson last week he would have said that Assad’s fate was in the hands of the Russians.
It is not so simple.
Although Russia agreed to replace Assad, it may not necessarily offer. The Russian air intervention significantly changed the balance in Syria, the reduction of the area controlled by the rebels against the government for more than 60% within 20 years.
But the land forces that have taken most of the gains are Iran-controlled militias, many with foreign fighters from Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries. Therefore, Iran, the Revolutionary Guards poured resources into the struggle for more than three years and passionately supported Assad, has veto power.
But the Trump administration denounced Iran’s involvement in Yemen and Syria, condemned its advanced missile tests and seems determined to confront the Shiite clerics it controls.
So if Assad stays in power, peace seems unlikely. Instead, the country is divided, a nightmare scenario that still result in more displacement and a central government totally dependent on Iran.
In France, meanwhile, Macron said his government does not pursue the demands of its predecessor that the elimination of Assad is a prerequisite for any peace agreement.